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Oil bust means hard times for Texas, but subtle effects in Central Texas

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Posted at 4:52 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 20:09:08-04

Oil and Texas go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But oil prices have dropped to their lowest point since futures trading started in 1983. The price of west Texas crude has gone negative meaning all producers are paying people to take the oil off their hands right now.

That’s bad news for Texas, where oil makes up 10 percent of the economy.

You used to find oil everywhere in the Lone Star State. While it might have made Ol' Jed a millionaire, right now, it's sent him back to his cabin in the Ozarks.

Rafael Garcia started seeing the warning signs a few months ago.

”The company I worked for already had two rigs that stacked down, and there were rumors of another one that was gonna stack down, so I just came back here to Mexia,” he said.

Mexia, used to be the oil capital of Central Texas.

Oil boomed here from the 1930s until the wells dried up in the 1970s.

It turned Mexia into a town of 85,000. Today, only 8,000 live here, and one working oil well remains in the city.

County Judge Richard Duncan says Limestone County will feel the oil bust in subtle ways.

”We're actually feeling it now in Limestone County. We have people who live here and work out in West Texas, so they'll go out there for 7, 14 days and then come back for 7, 14 days and they're getting laid off,” he explained.

And they're coming back home to Limestone. Houston-based Crescent Pass Energy has an office in Groesbeck.

While no one here would talk about the local impact, it would seem their days of sponsoring any number of community events may have ended for now.

Where will the oil bust end?

Waco economist, Dr. Ray Perryman says it all depends on getting the coronavirus under control.

"Once we solve the health crisis and we start to restart the economy, even if the economy gets back to half strength or 60 percent of what it was before in terms of oil demand, that much will be putting back, we'll start to see the oil and gas markets normalize," he said.

In the meantime, Rafael Garcia hopes his friends in the oil business put some of their money from better times away, to live off of for now.

”It's really just a waiting game. I mean if they're waiting for it to pick back up, then they're gonna have to just wait," he said.